ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) has the ability to bring together the key elements of your business, giving you better insights and streamlining business processes. ERP has come a long way, and modern systems - often known as business management software - offer simple implementation, easy customisation and flexible access to allow employees to get the data they need when they’re out of the office.
If this appeals, here’s the key steps to making this a reality for your business.
Have a clear ERP strategy
Your organisation needs a clear vision of what it is embarking on and what a system can and should deliver.
Developing this strategy can be thought of as the start-up phase for the overall project. The strategy should clarify scope (functional, organisational, and geographical), expected costs and benefits, technology, timescales and any constraints.
Assemble the project team
The project team for the selection project should represent all key internal stakeholders.
This will help avoid biased definition of requirements and will also help to foster buy-in for the new system. The selection project team is likely to form the core of the implementation project team once the system is purchased.
Prepare comprehensive procurement documents
During the selection process, make sure you find out the following from vendors:
- Accurate costs for the solution
- Whether the system matches the needs of your business
- The quality of the vendor for the software and implementation
- Timescales for implementation
- Flexibility of the system
- Any constraints, such as technology. You may require a specific platform due to your internal I.T. skill base or you may need users to access it on the move via the cloud
Conduct structured demonstrations
At some point in your selection process you will want to view demonstrations of a shortlist of candidate systems. In order to compare like-with-like it is important to structure this process correctly.
You should prepare and distribute scripted guidelines for the demonstrations, ensuring you see the key functional areas that are important. Again this should consider the differentiator requirements, but should also give a wider sense of the system operation as well as "look and feel".
It’s important to structure the timing of the demonstration segments carefully to ensure that vendors cannot spend a long time demonstrating the parts of the system that work very well, while glossing over weak parts. Your project team should score the tests in detail to ensure that all aspects are considered in your final comparison.
Perform reference checks
While you will have asked for reference examples in your procurement documents it is important to back up some of these references with visits or conference calls during the later stages of the process.
This should be unaccompanied by (though arranged via) the vendor to ensure you are getting an accurate account.
Don’t forget the implementation partner
At each stage of the process you should be assessing the implementation partner as well as the system.
The implementation partner will work closely with you to implement the system and most likely will provide you support after you go live. A functionally rich system implemented badly may provide less benefit and cause more problems than a system with functional gaps implemented well.
Take care when finalising the commercial agreement
Once you have selected a preferred vendor you must finalise contract documentation.
It's advisable to have master contract documents reviewed by your legal team to check you're happy with everything, including Software Acceptance, Intellectual Property Rights, Confidentiality, Liability, Insurance, Warranties and Dispute Resolution.
As well as the master contract there should be linked documentation relating to Statements of Work, Software Agreements, Consultancy Agreements and Support Agreements. Take care reviewing these to ensure you are clear on who is responsible for delivering what and when. The vendor may assume you are responsible for something that you had not considered your responsibility. This is a common cause of conflict during implementation.
Make sure you have the right experience and knowledge of ERP and business management software to help you avoid common pitfalls. It's advisable to get external independent help if you do not have this expertise in house. This will help ensure you get the right system, not only for the short-term but one that can also grow with your business in the future.
Thinking of starting a new, or upgrading an existing, ERP solution?
Download our "Business Management Solutions: Getting it right the first time" whitepaper, to learn:
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- How to understand the full needs of your business
- What to look for in a solution - according to your needs
- How to ensure the implementation is painless